Hacky Hour: Demographics, Building Communities and Sharing Local Expertise

Amanda Miotto1, Nick Hamilton2

1Griffith University/QCIF, Brisbane, Australia, a.miotto@griffith.edu.au
2University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia



Researchers starting their journey through data science often have an ambiguous path to follow. While online data science classes are plentiful, it can be challenging for those researchers, who have often never seen programming code before, to know where to start or how apply methods to their own data.

In Queensland, many of the universities, including Griffith, UQ, QUT USQ and JCU, have been supporting these researchers by running ‘Hacky Hours’; an open session where researchers can meet research software engineers and other researchers doing similar work to share knowledge, ask questions freely and come together to work on projects in a friendly environment.

Hacky hour groups are often successfully paired with workshops such as Software Carpentry to compliment learning after an initial introduction to a programming language or skill. This is also a good segway into discussions about practical reproducible practices (such as version control with Git and naming conventions) and data management (such as backups and data sensitivity).

These community building groups connect researchers often left in silos and expand expertise in the university. People come along both looking for help and offering to volunteer their time. Some clients even come along to socialize and meet others in their universities.

Hacky Hour communities have also been a way to connect with the wider research and technical communities, providing links to relevant meetups, hackathons, workshops offered outside their university and national resources such as NeCTAR cloud compute and virtual labs, local High Performance Computing (HPC) and other NCRIS activities. As many researchers can operate in isolated silos, this can often be the first time clients learn about these resources and initiatives. This also leads to attendees becoming involved with the wider community and building networks nationally.

The coordinators of Hacky Hours also work together to build a larger community. Coordinators share ideas for events, resources that are relevant and lessons learnt. This has been collated into a ‘Hacky Hours’ handbook available here: https://github.com/amandamiotto/HackyHourHandbook

Over the past three years, demographics have been collected across Queensland to show the diversity of the audience and the inquiries. Trends are studied to shape more targeted approaches. For example, UQ now hosts monthly bioinformatics specific Hacky Hours. The poster submitted highlights demographics and trends in these sessions


Amanda Miotto is an eResearch Senior Analyst for Griffith University and QCIF. She started off in the field of Bioinformatics and learnt to appreciate the beauty of science before discovering the joys of coding. As well as working on platforms around HPC, microscopy & scientific database portals, she is also heavily involved in Software Carpentry, Hacky Hours and was the main organizer for Research Bazaar Brisbane 2018.

Recent Comments